Beyond Bars: Rejoining Society After Prison, by Jeffrey Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards, New York, Alpha Books Inc., 2009, 224 pp.
An increasingly popular topic in penal literature is inmate reentry. Reentry is the process by which an offender "reenters" his or her community following confinement. While this book will raise awareness about reentry, it is also functional. Its functionality is reflected in its ability to help prepare inmates for release. Equally important is its ability to help prepare officials to effectively facilitate reentry while providing ex-inmates with useful information and advice. According to the authors, reentry produces a great deal of anxiety among offenders. This anxiety may be rooted in the prisoner's need for assistance when making pre-release arrangements for housing and employment. With 600,000 prison inmates being released annually (pg. xi), increased awareness about reentry and ways to improve assimilation is warranted.
This book begins like many others, with readers being introduced to the backgrounds of its authors. While introductions of this kind are common, the backgrounds of these authors prove unique. Jeffrey Ian Ross is a former correctional employee who continues to work with inmate populations. Stephen C. Richards spent nearly four years as an inmate, confined in nine different federal prisons, including the U.S. penitentiaries in Atlanta, Marion (III.) and Leavenworth (Kan.). Both authors now teach criminal justice, but their varied backgrounds allow them to write from the perspective of the citizen, corrections professional, offender and scholar. Readers will gain a greater understanding about reentry when viewing it from these diverse perspectives.
Beyond Bars consists of 12 chapters along with a foreword and epilogue. Chapter titles include "Preparing for Release from Prison" (Chapter 1), "Give Me Shelter" (Chapter 5), "Going Back to School" (Chapter 8), "Family, Love, and Sex" (Chapter 9), "The Devil You Know: Avoiding Alcohol, Drugs, Weapons, and Violence" (Chapter 10), and "The Holy Trinity: Money, Debt, and Business" (Chapter 11). The book's foreword is written by Charlie Sullivan, co-director of Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE). Three appendixes provide a glossary of terminology, a list of organizations that assist ex-inmates, and a list of recommended books for further reading. An...